is here. Flowers bloom. Robins sing. Buds ... well, bud. It’s the time
of year when all of nature rejoices. And I, of course, am miserable.

Forty days, six hours and 20 minutes ago, I gave up chocolate for Lent.
Lent is a Christian observance based on the Bible account of Jesus
being driven into the desert for several weeks where he suffered
starvation, exposure to the elements and taunting from demons. For me,
the story has always been vaguely reminiscent of the summer I spent at
overnight camp. It’s traditional, from mid-February to Easter, for
Christians to enter into some kind of self-inflicted suffering. So,
since I no longer date, I remember Jesus’ harrowing, soul-testing
struggle by going six weeks without a Snickers bar.

I’m not always sure that this makes a lot of sense. Generally, I like
the concept of self-denial. As long as it doesn’t mean I have to give
anything up. But most religions seem to insist that a little suffering
of the body is good for the soul. For instance, in ancient times a
group called Essenes proclaimed that the pathway to true joy was to
exist with no sex, no decent food and nothing whatsoever that might
make life the least bit comfortable. Incredibly, this movement did not
catch on.

Christianity isn’t the only religion that ushers in spring by recalling
suffering. Passover, which begins today, remembers the Jewish captivity
in Egypt and the relief of their release. I asked my friend Debra how
she marks this event. “We spend time with our relatives ... and then we
get to go home.”

An advantage of giving up chocolate for Lent is that not only do I
suffer, everyone around me suffers, too. One year I told my partner Liz
I was going to observe Lent by giving up coffee. She said she’d observe
it by giving up living with me.

So, is this little suffering bringing me spiritual renewal and
awareness? Truthfully, the only thing I’ve become aware of so far is
that I’m in serious danger of rolling the next person who stands near
me while holding a Kit Kat.

Outside these days, my tiny backyard garden is awash in purple and
yellow crocuses. Tree branches shimmer with gauzy green buds. The
evening skies are opals and fire. Mother Nature is lavishing us with
the indulgent pleasures of spring. Denying us nothing.

While I, being only human, wait for Easter. And dream of Snickers bars.